April 19, 2017 | Office of the President

Message to the Bowdoin Community (April 19, 2017)

To the Bowdoin community,

Today—on the eve of Earth Day—we have several exciting announcements about our commitment to sustainability and the environment: we have achieved carbon neutrality at Bowdoin two years ahead of schedule, we are entering into a pioneering renewable energy partnership that will create the largest solar array in Maine today, and we are beginning work on an even more ambitious campus plan for sustainability that will stretch over the next decade.

My predecessor, Barry Mills, began the efforts to reduce Bowdoin’s carbon footprint and to raise awareness about sustainability when he signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007. More than 500 schools have now signed on under the banner of the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments. Second Nature, the organization that monitors progress on these pledges, tells us we are only the third college in the country to achieve its carbon neutrality commitment. This remarkable success has required a decade of work to measure our carbon emissions and to take the steps necessary to achieve a “net zero” carbon footprint. We are pausing today to celebrate this achievement a full two years ahead of schedule, and we are simultaneously renewing our pledge to keep moving forward.

Today we are also announcing a partnership with four liberal arts colleges in Massachusetts—Amherst, Hampshire, Smith, and Williams—to support the construction of a 75-megawatt solar project by NextEra Energy in the town of Farmington, Maine. By comparison, the existing 1.2-megawatt solar facility built in partnership with SolarCity on College land was once the state’s largest, a designation currently held by a 9.9-megawatt complex in Pittsfield. When completed late next year, this new facility in Farmington will provide a substantial increase in brand new solar power for Maine and eliminate CO2 emissions that would otherwise be necessary to produce an equivalent amount of electricity. The College’s share of the renewable energy credits created by the new solar complex will offset close to half of Bowdoin’s annual electricity consumption and reduce the College’s own-source greenhouse gas emissions by 11 percent. It is a point of great pride that Maine will be home to this new source of clean solar energy and that, for the second time in recent years, Bowdoin is helping to establish the largest solar facility in our state.

Notwithstanding these two milestones, our work is far from done. Having achieved carbon neutrality ahead of schedule, we are now turning our energies to developing an ambitious 2030 plan. The work here will engage our entire community, and we anticipate having the plan completed well ahead of July 1, 2020.

Our progress is the result of work by everyone at Bowdoin to understand the effects of climate change, to make adjustments in behavior, and to think carefully about how we can reduce our own impact on the environment. These efforts have involved many, many people in our community over the past dozen years—too many to name here. We are grateful for their dedication, for their ideas, and for following through to implement effective change on our campus. We are guided today in this work by Keisha Payson and Bethany Taylor in our Office of Sustainability, by our facilities management staff, and by the current members of our Sustainability Implementation Committee: Don Borkowski, Ta Herrera, Bruce Kohorn, John Lichter, Erik Nelson, Matt Orlando, Amber Rock ’19, Carlie Rutan ‘19, Caroline Shipley ’20, and Ted Stam.

There is a more information here on the Bowdoin website​ about our pioneering new solar partnership and about the sustainability progress we have made to date. I hope you will take the time to review this information and to join in the pride we can all take in Bowdoin’s ongoing efforts in environmental leadership.